In a videoconference interview for the BBC "Newsday" program on the morning of April 8, Vice President Chen Chien-jen shared Taiwan's experience fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and answered questions about international cooperation to fight the pandemic.
A transcript of the interview follows:
Q: Now, while many countries are still struggling to contain the virus, the island of Taiwan has had some success, despite being right next door to China where the outbreak began. On the very last day of 2019, authorities began assessing passengers arriving on direct flights from Wuhan, checking for symptoms of fever and pneumonia. Soon after, on the 20th of January, the government activated the Central Epidemic Command Center to directly coordinate efforts by different ministries and agencies. That organization has overseen crucial measures including border control, fighting misinformation, and providing financial relief for businesses.
Well, with us to discuss his country's approach is the Taiwanese Vice President Dr. Chen Chien-jen. He is also an epidemiologist who is recognized for his leading role in the battle. Your country seems to have dealt with this virus incredibly well. What can other countries learn from your approach?
A: First of all, I would like to wish Prime Minister Johnson "get well soon" and all the best to the people of the United Kingdom. The situation in Taiwan is quite good. Just as you mentioned, by April 7, there are 376 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including five deaths. Most of them were imported cases. It is very important for us to take very quick actions. So in the battle with this COVID-19, we implemented a lot of measures and our President, Tsai Ing-wen, held a meeting of the National Security Council to coordinate and integrate all the multiministry efforts, including the quick announcement of the travel alert, optimization of border quarantine, reinforcement of 14-day home quarantine, upgrade of the healthcare system for infectious disease, adequate supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) and other medical materials, and promotion of health education and communication. And, last but not least, is accelerated development of rapid diagnostic antivirus [test kits] and vaccines.
Q: You've been praised for your fast response to the virus. How much have you as a country learned from previous outbreaks?
A: From the previous outbreak, we can see that it is very important for us to take a very quick response, so Taiwan's actions basically embedded the concepts of prudent action, rapid response, and early deployment into the epidemic prevention system. Now we consider that, after the SARS outbreak, we already had a comprehensive review and made amendments to our Communicable Disease Control Act. We established a command system for communicable disease control, and we strengthened our border quarantine capacity, and set up a diversified communicable disease monitoring system, and reinforced our monitoring of densely populated institutions, and implemented nosocomial infection prevention control policies, and formulated response plans for emerging infectious diseases and conducted drills. We also established reference laboratories to improve testing technology and capacity. We also organized the Infectious Disease Prevention Medical Network. And last one, we implemented a mechanism for activating the Central Epidemic Command Center. Prudent action, rapid response, and early deployment are very essential for this, and [for] a very good control of this pandemic.
Q: And you've also been helping other countries try and take on the coronavirus. Just tell us a little bit more about how you've been helping foreign and international countries.
A: Yes, on April 4, our President, Tsai Ing-wen, remarked that Taiwan can help, and Taiwan is helping. And so, we would like to let people know that President Tsai Ing-wen said that, out of humanitarian concern, Taiwan cannot stand by while other countries are in need of help. Taiwan is actively bolstering cooperation with all countries, and is willing to provide assistance to the international community in the areas of face masks, pharmaceuticals, and technologies. And we also committed to donating 10 million face masks to support medical personnel in countries most severely affected by the disease, including the UK, and we are also actively helping the UK government procure critical materials and resources from Taiwan to contain the pandemic, and protect frontline medical staff and citizens in the UK. And the US, they publicly already signed a cooperation document with Taiwan, and we also would like to collaborate with the UK to improve the containment of the pandemic, and also to protect all the people in the world.